My graduating class contained the usual assortment of jocks, nerds, artists and untouchables, plus the East Parking Lot smokers. We numbered about 250, from a small suburb of that big city east of here. This was before school shootings, so our biggest problems were whether to allow girls to run with the boys on cross-country (pre-Title IX) or if car rallies should be canceled during the energy crisis.
I recently returned from my high school reunion — never mind which year. Something about this one was different. It started on the reunion Facebook page, with a post from a classmate I’ll call Nancy S. Here it is, abridged:
"Thanks for the invite to the reunion but I'm not going to be able to make it. 1. It is way too much money. 2. I was never accepted and was always made fun of and bullied by others. It takes a long time to get over that, and why should I subject myself to that again when I'm happy with the life I have? I'm not rich but I own my home, have a guy who I love dearly and a daughter who has special needs who I wouldn't trade for anything. To everyone, thanks for many interesting years; I learned a lot about people."
Within a day, scores of responses and “likes” were added by classmates who had been on either — or both — sides of the bully fence. Here’s the first one:
"I am sorry the idea of our reunion brings up painful memories for you. You have certainly created a life rich with love and family, which is a very good place to be at this stage of all our lives. God bless your daughter ... she is fortunate to have such a caring mother."
This was followed by a progression of posts. A sampling:
"I hope that I didn't contribute to your pain and sincerely apologize if I did. Truly. I just grieve for you. I know that what's been done can't be undone, but I'm so glad that you've gotten past it and are leading a fulfilling life. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. That couldn't have been easy."
"Where are you now? “Yasmine P.” lives near the beach. If you come, let’s make plans to visit her there."
"Thank you for your heartfelt, honest note. There is no excuse for treating people the way you described, and I only hope that we have all matured over the years. If you change your mind about the reunion, let me know personally. Some have donated money so that everyone who wants to can come. I would be happy to make sure you are included in that."
"Nancy — the trip will cost you nothing. I will send you a ticket and will get you a room. The meals are on me. Bring your daughter if you'd like — I have that, too. PLEASE COME!"
Over half the class attended, coming from all over California to the East Coast; from Austria to Australia. I heard the expected laughter, old-story sharing and new business tips, but never a “Do you see what she’s wearing? or “How many marriages has he been through?” When I occasionally noticed a classmate standing alone, they were quickly approached with a smile and a welcome.
Nancy did come, and right afterward entered this on Facebook:
"Thank you Mike J. for making my trip to California awesome. It means a lot to me. If it weren't for you and the others the trip wouldn’t have happened. The reunion will long be remembered by me."
Nancy’s healing was healing for all of us.
— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor (www.DecisivePath.com) and a freelance writer (www.CanyonVoices.com). Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.